Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have developed a fuel cell that is capable of operating on conventional diesel oil. They claim the use of this fuel will eliminate many of the infrastructure problems associated with the delivery of fuel for fuel cells.

Until now the team had been unable to use diesel as fuel because it could not solve the problem of vapourising a fuel with a low vapour pressure at room temperature. It has now circumvented this problem by using an injection system similar to that used in cars.

The prototype requires a very high operating temperature, 700°C in the current development, but the researchers claim that in a practical application the unit would be arranged to generate sufficient heat using the fuel supplied to achieve its operating temperature. The fuel cell is based on a solid oxide design which, though running at a high temperature, more than compenates by potentially offering extremely high conversion efficiencies.